Thursday, March 27, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: War of 1812 snuff boxes

- Samantha Broghamer, Curatorial Intern
 
 
Last year, the museum purchased two early nineteenth-century snuff boxes that were produced to commemorate important American naval victories during the War of 1812. The engraved boxes feature a battle on the Great Lakes and an encounter between frigates on the open ocean, conveniently illustrating the different theaters in which the Navy operated during the war. Furthermore, both battles have a connection to Newport.

Snuff, made from ground or pulverized tobacco leaves, is a smokeless tobacco that is inhaled or “snuffed” into the nasal cavity. Snuff-taking originated in the Americas and became commonplace among men throughout the Western world by the seventeenth century. Quality snuff boxes are equipped with airtight lids in order to keep the tobacco leaves dry and fresh. Men of all ages and social classes used boxes like these when snuff-taking was in vogue.


The first snuff box commemorates the capture of the frigate HMS Macedonian by USS United States off the Azores on 25 October 1812. The inscription reads: “THE GLORIOUS VICTORY, Achieved in the short space of Seventeen Minutes by the American Frigate UNITED STATES Commanded by Commodore DECATUR over the British Frigate MACEDONIA Mounting Forty nine guns.” Under the command of Captain Stephen Decatur, the captured British ship arrived at Newport on 6 December 1812 where it became a welcome addition to the U.S. Navy as the re-commissioned USS Macedonian. Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, a Newport native, took charge of the vessel upon her arrival.

Perry is most noted for his role as the commander of the American fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie, arguably the most significant naval battle of the War of 1812. The inscription on the second snuff box reads, “Com. PERRY Capturing the whole of the British fleet on Lake Erie, Sept. 10, 1813.” Perry’s flagship, USS Lawrence, took a terrific pounding from British guns at the start of the battle and suffered 80% casualties among the crew. Amidst heavy gunfire, Perry transferred his flag to USS Niagara and proceeded to break through the enemy line. For the first time in history, an entire British naval squadron surrendered. Perry was involved in nine other military actions on Lake Erie during the course of the war. He became known as the “Hero of Lake Erie” and went on to receive a Congressional Gold Medal for his service. A version of his famous report to the Secretary of the Navy is on the bottom: “It has pleased the Almighty to give to the arms of the United States a signal victory...

These snuff boxes were recently put on display in conjunction with the bicentennial of the War of 1812. They can currently be viewed in the main gallery on the first deck immediately after entering the museum.

 
Museum purchase with Naval War College Foundation Funds

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chester W. Nimitz's commission in the United States Navy


Since 2 February is the 107th anniversary of Chester W. Nimitz’s commissioning as an ensign in the United States Navy, it is the perfect time to resume our artifact spotlight posts by showcasing this document. The Naval War College Library’s Naval Historical Collection, a magnificent archive of both institutional and U.S. Navy history, holds the commissioning certificate which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Rising to the rank of Fleet Admiral as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet during World War II and to the position of Chief of Naval Operations after the war, Nimitz was a gifted strategist with a deep appreciation for the Naval War College.

Born in Fredericksburg, Texas, Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) graduated from the United States Naval Academy’s class of 1905. His first orders as a passed midshipman were to report to the battleship USS Ohio (BB-12), bound for the Far East as flagship of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. Ohio’s presence on station coincided with the Russo-Japanese War and the expanding naval power of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese capture of Port Arthur and naval victory at the battle of Tsushima forced Russia to seek mediation from the United States. President Roosevelt negotiated the treaty at the Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard later that year. The president was a naval historian, former assistant Secretary of the Navy, proponent of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s lectures on naval strategy, and great supporter of the Naval War College as well.

Several months after arbitrating treaty terms with Russia and Japan, TR signed the commission of the officer perhaps most responsible for achieving victory in the naval war in the Pacific during World War II. Receiving command of the U.S. the gunboat Panay, Nimitz continued to cruise the Philippines gaining valuable experience in Pacific waters.

Commander Nimitz was ordered to the Naval War College in 1922. He famously credited his time in Newport as preparing him for wartime command more than any other experience. Of course, the naval war games conducted by Nimitz and his classmates prepared these future leaders for the logistical requirements, strategy, and tactics necessary to achieve victory in a war with Japan.


It is clear from the note Nimitz penned on the bottom of this certificate, donated in 1961, that he valued the Naval War College. Nimitz famously recalled in 1960 that, “The war with Japan had been reenacted in the game rooms at the Naval War College by so many people, and in so many ways, that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise…absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics at the end of the war; we had not visualized these.”

It is impossible to know why the admiral chose to donate this particular piece of his history to the college but it is certainly telling that he chose a commission signed by the Commander in Chief most closely associated with the success of Naval War College in its early ears.


On loan from the Naval Historical Collection

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Education Update: 8 Bells Lecture Series 2014 Schedule

The Eight Bells Book Lecture Series

The format of the Eight Bells Lecture Series has the author speaking about 40-45 minutes on the topic of his book and the facts leading to its publication. The last 15-20 minutes are given over for audience members to ask questions on the topic.  Those who are able to remain after the allotted hour can stay and discuss the book further and have the book signed. Copies of the books are on sale in the Naval War College Foundation Gift Shop. As always, this event is a brown-bag affair which is free and open to the public.
Call the museum at 401-841-4052 to confirm dates and to make a reservation if you do not have access to Naval Station Newport. Reservations must be made at least one business day in advance of visit.
 
5 December 2013: The Battle of Midway: The Naval Institute Guide to the U.S. Navy’s Greatest Victory edited by Thomas C. Hone
This edited collection is an anthology of memoirs, oral histories, articles and other relevant government documents focusing on events leading up to the battle, the battle, and follow-on interpretations of the events.  Tom Hone is a former faculty member of the Naval War College.





12 December 2013: 21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for a Modern Era by LCDR B.J. Armstrong

Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Influence of Seapower upon History is well known to students of naval history and strategy, but his other writings are often dismissed as irrelevant to today's problems. This collection of five of Mahan's essays, along with Benjamin Armstrong's informative introductions, illustrates why Mahan's work remains relevant to the 21st century and how it can help develop our strategic thinking.  Armstrong's analysis is derived directly from Mahan's own writings. From the challenges of bureaucratic organization and the pit falls of staff duty, to the development of global strategy and fleet composition, to illustrations of effective combat leadership, Armstrong demonstrates that Mahan's ideas continue to provide today's readers with a solid foundation to address the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world.

 
9 January 2014: Legendary Locals of Newport: by Annie Sherman

In Legendary Locals of Newport, local magazine editor Annie Sherman chronicles centuries of these characters tales using images from the islands many historic archives, libraries, organizations, and print media.

Show
16 January 2014: The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine

Lincoln Paine takes us back to the origins of long-distance migration by sea from Africa and Eurasia to Australia and the Americas. He demonstrates the critical role of maritime trade to the civilizations of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley draws upon the examples of the Phoenicians and Greeks, as well as those of India, Southeast and East Asia who parlayed their navigational skills, shipbuilding techniques, and commercial acumen to establish vibrant overseas colonies and trade routes in the centuries leading up to the age of European overseas expansion.


23 January 2014: Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam and American Cold War Strategy by Frank Jones
Robert Komer was a Cold War national security policy and strategy adviser to three presidents and one of the most influential national security professionals of his time.  This biography gives a useful summary of Komer’s impact on American policy and strategy, and looks at the legacy relating to today’s policies.


6 February 2014:  Congo: The Miserable Expeditions and Dreadful Death of LT Emory Taunt, USN by Andy Jampoler

A young naval officer is given the mission to explore the Congo River in May 1885 and tasked with reporting on opportunities for American business interests.  The trip which had started out with such great promise and hope for wealth ended with bankruptcy, disgrace, and, ultimately, death. 

13 February 2014: A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Set in the 1930s, this novel is about five American women who travel to France to visit the graves of the sons lost during World War I.  The women come from different ethnic and social background and initially it would seem that the only common thread was their identification as Gold Star Mothers.  The pilgrimage to France changes that as they work through the grief they had been carrying.

 
20 February 2014Hero of the Angry Sky: The World War I Diary and Letters of David S.Ingalls, America's First Naval Ace by Geoffrey L. Rossano and William F. Trimble

Hero of the Angry Sky draws on the unpublished diaries, correspondence, informal memoir, and other personal documents of the U.S. Navy’s only flying “ace” of World War I to tell his unique story. This edited collection of Ingalls’s writing details the career of the U.S. Navy’s most successful combat flyer from that conflict.  While Ingalls’s wartime experiences are compelling at a personal level, they also illuminate the larger, but still relatively unexplored, realm of early U.S. naval aviation.

 

 
 6 March 2014An American Knight by Tory Failmezger

This is the story of the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion during World War II as told in the letters of Lt. Thomas Peter Welch.  From stateside to North Africa, to Salerno, Anzio, and crossing the Siegfried Line, he saw it all.  But, there was no storybook ending for Welch upon returning to the United States.  Adjustment was difficult. 


13 March 2014: Proceed to Peshawar: The Story of a U.S. Navy Intelligence Mission on the Afghan Border, 1943 by George Hill
A previously untold intelligence mission involving two American naval officers who traveled along 800 miles of the Durand Line, the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, gaining a first look of the area for the United States government.


27 March 2014: The Morenci Marines: A Tale of Small Town America and the Vietnam War by Kyle Longley

This is the story of nine young men who left Morenci, Arizona, and joined the Marine Corp to fight in Vietnam.  Three survived.  Their story was covered by ABC News and Time magazine, as well as being voted the most important veterans’ story in state history.  With extensive personal interviews and access to personal correspondence, the author is able to add new detail to this story of loss, grief and guilt.

3 April 2014: The Shining Sea: David Porter and the Epic Voyage of the USS Essex During the War of 1812 by George Daughan

The biography of one of the early heroes of the early Navy, a veteran of the Quasi-War with France and the war with Tripoli, Porter was given command of USS Essex to take the war to the British and attack their shipping in the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  His search for glory ultimately costs him his ship and the lives of over two-thirds of his crew.  This was one of the great voyages of the War of 1812 and reveals an individual with flaws bordering on megalomania.  

10 April 2014: Pushing the Limits: The Remarkable Life and Times of Vice Admiral Allan Rockwell McCann, USN by Carl LaVO 

This book is an overdue appreciation of a significant admiral who had an extraordinary career following his graduation from the United States Naval Academy in 1913.  He saw action in both World War I and II, was involved in the rescue of survivors in the USS Squalus (SS 192), the development of the McCann Submarine Rescue Chamber, and was tasked by President Truman to investigate the Revolt of the Admirals.

8 May 2014: A Two-Edged Sword: the Navy as an Instrument of Canadian Foreign Policy by Dr. Nicholas Tracy

In the first major study of the Royal Canadian Navy's contribution to foreign policy, Nicholas Tracy takes a comprehensive look at the paradox that Canada faces in participating in a system of collective defense. Created in 1910 to support Canadian autonomy, the Royal Canadian Navy has played an important role in defining Canada's relationship with the United Kingdom, the United States, and NATO as the Navy's priorities have realigned since the end of the Cold War.


15 May 2014: A Tainted Dawn: The Great War (1792-1815) Book I by B.N. Peacock

The first book of a planned trilogy surrounding the lives of three youths set as England and Spain are on the brink of war. France, allied by treaty with Spain, readies her warships. As diplomats in Europe race to avoid conflict, war threatens to explode in the Caribbean, with the three youths pitted against each other.

 
22 May 2014: The Liberty Incident Revealed: The Definitive Account of the 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship by A. Jay Cristol

In 2002, Cristol published The Liberty Incident.  As there were many unanswered questions regarding aspects of the attack, Cristol pursued a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against NSA which has allowed an expanded and more in-depth analysis of the details surrounding the event.  The six new chapters go a long way to providing the truth in this sensational, media story.


29 May 2014:  With Commodore Perry to Japan: The Journal of William Speiden Jr., 1852-1855 edited by David Ranzan and John Wolter
Seen through the eyes of a sixteen year old purser’s clerk onboard USS Mississippi, this is an account of M.C. Perry’s expedition to Japan which provides much insight into the social history of the ship and the historic event which was the backdrop.

5 June 2014: The Lucky Few by Jan Herman

The final, chaotic events of the Vietnam War and the role played by the USS Kirk in rendering humanitarian assistance to remnants of the South Vietnamese fleet and the thousands of refugees fleeing Communist forces and trying to make it to freedom.

12 June 2014: Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed by Sandy Grimes 

Written by two of the CIA principals involved in identifying Ames as a Soviet mole and one of the most destructive traitors in American history, this book is also the first to provide details of the operational contact with the agents Ames betrayed, as well as similar cases with which the authors also had personal involvement—a total of sixteen operational histories in all.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: CDR Alan B. Shepard Portrait, 1965

The Best of Navy Art, an exhibition of twenty-five original paintings on loan from the Navy Art Collection, is currently showing at the Naval War College Museum. One of the paintings on exhibit is an oil portrait of astronaut Alan B. Shepard (1923-1998) painted by Everett Kinstler.


New Hampshire native Alan B. Shepard, Jr. graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1944. After graduation, Ensign Shepard was assigned to USS Cogswell (DD 651) for the remainder of World War II. He earned his wings in 1947 and following a tour with VF 42, he attended the United States Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. Following a second squadron tour with VF 193, he returned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River as a test pilot and instructor. In 1957, Shepard graduated from the Naval War College. One of the first seven astronauts selected for PROJECT MERCURY, he became the first American to journey into space on May 5, 1961. He returned to space in Apollo 14, earning distinction as the fifth person to walk on the moon.

Everett Kinstler (1926-Present) studied at the National Academy of Design (NAD), and the Art Students League of New York under Frank DuMond, Wayman Adams, and John Johansen. Noted for his portraits, he also painted Astronaut Scott Carpenter, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman,

Organized chronologically by subject, these twenty-five pieces were carefully chosen to highlight the men and women, vessels, aircraft, battles, and actions that made American naval history.

The Best of Navy Art is a collaborative exhibit produced by the Navy Art Collection and the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C. The Naval War College Museum provided new interpretive information to tie some of the paintings to the naval history of Narragansett Bay. The exhibit will be open through May 2, 2014. Click here for more information.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: USS KEARSARGE vs. CSS ALABAMA Painting, 1872

The Best of Navy Art, an exhibition of twenty-five original paintings on loan from the Navy Art Collection, is currently showing at the Naval War College Museum. One of the paintings on exhibit is an 1872 oil on canvas depicting the famous battle between the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama by artist Thomas C. Oliver.
 
During the Civil War, the commerce raider CSS Alabama severely disrupted U.S. merchant shipping during her twenty-one months at sea. Having searched European ports for over a year, the screw sloop-of war USS Kearsarge finally discovered Alabama at Cherbourg, France in June 1864. In anticipation of the coming battle, Kearsarge’s commander, Captain John Winslow, ordered chain cable secured to vulnerable sections of the hull. Honoring French neutrality, Winslow then waited for Alabama to leave territorial waters before engaging his adversary. During the hour-long battle, Kearsarge’s guns pounded the raider with devastating accuracy. His ship burning and sinking, Captain Raphael Semmes struck Alabama’s colors and asked for assistance. He and several officers escaped on a British yacht and returned to the Confederacy.
 
Thomas C. Oliver (1827 – 1892), born in Lynn, Massachusetts, was a marine painter known for his luminous works completed around the Lynn and Gloucester areas.
Organized chronologically by subject, these twenty-five pieces were carefully chosen to highlight the men and women, vessels, aircraft, battles, and actions that made American naval history.

The Best of Navy Art is a collaborative exhibit produced by the Navy Art Collection and the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C. The Naval War College Museum provided new interpretive information to tie some of the paintings to the naval history of Narragansett Bay. The exhibit will be open through May 2, 2014. Click here for more information.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: Commodore John Rodgers Portrait, date unknown

The Best of Navy Art, an exhibition of twenty-five original paintings on loan from the Navy Art Collection, is currently showing at the Naval War College Museum. One of the paintings on exhibit is an oil portrait of Commodore John Rodgers by renowned American portraitist Gilbert Stuart.


John Rodgers (1773-1838) was the ranking active naval officer in the War of 1812 and first head of the Board of Navy Commissioners, 1815-1837. During the War of 1812 he made four commerce-destroying cruises. A detachment of sailors and marines under his command harassed British forces after the attack on Washington in 1814. In September of the same year, Commodore Rodgers played a leading role in the successful American defense of Baltimore against a formidable enemy force.

Gilbert Stuart (1755 – 1828), one of the premier American portraitists, was born in Saunderstown, Rhode Island and moved with his family to Newport in 1761. He is known for painting over one thousand portraits, including several of George Washington. His unfinished Washington portrait, called the “Athenaeum portrait,” was used for the one dollar bill.

Organized chronologically by subject, these twenty-five pieces were carefully chosen to highlight the men and women, vessels, aircraft, battles, and actions that made American naval history.
 
The Best of Navy Art is a collaborative exhibit produced by the Navy Art Collection and the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C. The Naval War College Museum provided new interpretive information to tie some of the paintings to the naval history of Narragansett Bay. The exhibit will be open through May 2, 2014. Click here for more information.

 


 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: USS HELENA in Heavy Seas, c. 1905

---Kiersten Tibbetts, Curatorial Intern


The Best of Navy Art, an exhibition of twenty-five original paintings on loan from the Navy Art Collection, is currently showing at the Naval War College Museum. One of the paintings on exhibit is an oil on canvas titled USS Helena in Heavy Seas.
The scene, painted by an unknown Chinese ship portraitist in 1905, depicts USS Helena riding out a raging storm in the Pacific Ocean. The USS Helena (PG 9) was commissioned in 1897 with Commander William T. Swinburne of Newport, Rhode Island in command. The 250-ft gunboat first served in home waters. She saw action at Manzanillo and Fort Tumas off Cuba during the Spanish-American War and sailed with the Asiatic Squadron during the Philippine Insurrection in late 1898. Helena served in the Far East on the South China and Yangtze River patrols for the rest of her career. The vessel was decommissioned in 1932 and sold two years later.

Organized chronologically by subject, these twenty-five pieces were carefully chosen to highlight the men and women, vessels, aircraft, battles, and actions that made American naval history.
 
The Best of Navy Art is a collaborative exhibit produced by the Navy Art Collection and the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C. The Naval War College Museum provided new interpretive information to tie some of the paintings to the naval history of Narragansett Bay. The exhibit will be open through May 2, 2014. Click here for more information.